Could the Philadelphia Eagles be considering WR Tavon Austin as a target if they trade down in the first round of the NFL Draft? Ian Rapoport of NFL.com set off a fury of speculation on the possibility after posting this tweet yesterday:
The #Eagles reached out to Tavon Austin yesterday, doing more due diligence. They’d be willing to move back. Covering their bases in case?
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) April 23, 2013
This, of course, came on the heels of other reports that the Eagles were looking to trade down.
I’ve briefly thought about the idea of him being a possibility when I was going through draft prospects that would fit Kelly’s desire for versatile players. However, I quickly dismissed the notion because my focus has been primarily on OL, DL or OLB as the Eagles’ No. 1 pick.
The thought of taking Austin in Round 1 is intriguing, yet risky. Furthermore, with more pressing needs to address high in the draft, why would they even consider taking a wide receiver? And a tiny one at that?
Here’s the skinny on Austin…
Last season at West Virginia, Austin posted 111 receptions for 1,287 yards and 12 TDs. He rushed 73 times for 652 yards and three TDs. He also returned 15 punts for 165 yards and a score as well as 32 kickoffs for 813 yards and a score.
That’s 2,917 all purpose yards, 17 TDs, and averaged 12.6 yards every time he touched the ball. In a word, those stats are simply amazing!
Here is a scouting report from Dane Brugler at NFLDraftScout.com:
STRENGTHS: Video game-like athleticism with rare change of direction skills. Lateral explosion is something special, doing an excellent job sticking his foot in the ground and bursting in any direction.
Knows how to change gears and turn on the jets to blow by others on the field. Very good start/stop ability with patience and vision to quickly survey and waste little time creating, always appearing to have a plan. Goes zero-to-60 in a flash and forces poor angles by defenders, following blocks and anticipating holes to set up his moves.
Very good space player and extremely shifty and elusive with the balance and deceiving strength to stay on his feet through contact. Smaller target for defenders to square up and a tough ballcarrier to tackle in motion. Good body control to make tough catches look easy with quick hands to pluck. Fearless and confident going up for the ball. Tough, gutsy and can take a hit, working hard to get every yard.
Versatile skill-set with experience all over the offense at running back and receiver, often used as a decoy. Dangerous return man and very good at weaving through defenders, playing with different gears that others on the field just don’t have. Extremely productive with numerous school records, including career catches and all-purpose yards.
WEAKNESSES: Smallish frame and limited length with obvious durability concerns due to size. Will dance too much and get caught going east-west too much or in reverse, getting himself in trouble always looking for the home run. Smaller hands and will have some drops and double-catches, sometimes looking to create before securing the grab.
Strong effort as a blocker, but obviously limited in this area and can be tossed by defenders when they get their hands on him. Probably relegated to the slot at the next level. Too much all-or-nothing runs.
Austin is the consensus No. 1 WR this year by most, if not all, draft scouts. The most common description I’ve heard about him is that he is the most explosive player in the draft.
While all of this sounds great, he is still only 5′ 8″ and 174 lbs. That. Is. Small.
Hell, that’s small enough to make DeSean Jackson look like Calvin Johnson! Okay, maybe not that dramatic, but you get my point.
I will, however, give him props in that he never missed a game or even a single practice during his time in West Virginia. That, at least, shows a history of durability, which is a huge concern as he enters the big-boy league.
But, size is size. It’s highly unlikely that Austin will ever excel as a receiver that primarily lines up wide (aka, a “No. 1 WR”). He will make his living as a slot receiver and multi-dimensional player that lines up everywhere on offense while also serving as a return specialist.
And that is why Chip Kelly would love to have him.
The odd thing is, these types of players never used to be considered first round prospects, mainly because of their diminutive stature. But, times are a changin’ in the NFL.
With rules continuously being implemented that protect receivers, the Austin-type of player is starting to become all the rage.
I’ll admit, I would be very intrigued to see how Kelly would use a player such as him. And Lord knows we need an upgrade in the return game. If utilized properly, Austin certainly has the ability to have a substantial impact on the field.
However, he is still going to be a risk because of his size. The NFL has bigger, stronger and faster players than at the college level. Once he takes a couple of crushing hits, he may get a little gun-shy and fade into the background.
That’s the part that scares me about him, especially taking him in Round 1. If he was a second or third-rounder, no problem. Round 1? That’s risky.
I’m old school. I like my receivers big and physical with adequate game speed. I’ll give you two Tavon Austins for one Calvin Johnson-type. I like guys that will out-jump and out-muscle you for the ball.
To me, they have much more longevity than the small guys. We’ve already seen what can happen to small guys like DeSean Jackson.
Once defenses figured out how to negate him, he drifted into the background. He also suffered a few bone-jarring hits and concussion that make him leery of going over the middle.
That’s not to say Austin would react the same way. He could be as tough as other small guys like Wes Welker, Steve Smith or Santana Moss…or he could become a tentative player after getting swallowed up by NFL-sized defenses.
We just don’t know. Is that a risk you’re willing to take in Round 1? Especially with more pressing needs and the fact we already have a small speedster at the WR position in Jackson?
Someone will be willing, though, as apparently several teams are eying him up.
How would you feel if it was your team that took him?
If we did, at least we could have an offensive package that consisted of Austin, Jackson and Damaris Johnson and call it the “smurf package.”